Saturday, July 16, 2016


I have not posted about the myriad of tragic events over the past few weeks because I am utterly overwhelmed. I literally do not know where to start.  This blog was intended for me to be a sort of refuge, where I was not called on to do the emotional processing required of my work and volunteering. However, I'm realizing that trauma does not stay neatly packaged in one area of our life. People reading my blog can't assume that I mourn the loss of Black life in the United States, because that is tragically not a given. I have to state it, otherwise I am complicit in white supremacy.

I am mourning Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

I am still mourning Sandra Bland and Eric Garner and Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin.

As an U.S. American, I can list names of Black victims of white supremacy as easily as I can recite the pledge of allegiance. And I've only scratched the surface.

I have so little to give right now, and for that, I am sorry.  I would like to tell you, the reader, that your feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and numbness are.... well, "normal" feels reductive. But they are all responses to unceasing exposure to violence. I see you. I see your sorrow. I see your pain.  I see your anger.


For more on anger in the wake of injustice, especially for healers, see this post at Little Red Tarot.


This summer has been hard for me. I've been very raw, and struggling to process both what I see in the news and what happens in my personal life. I've been watching wildlife in my backyard a lot, as it is one of the few things that brings me peace.  My partner and I watched a pair of Carolina wrens build a nest in the watering can on our back porch, watched them lay eggs, watched the clutch hatch.  I checked on them (discreetly) first thing in the morning and right before the sun went down.  The parent birds got so used to us that they would feed their babies while we had our coffee on the back porch.

Two nights ago, a snake ate the baby birds. They would have started fledging towards the end of next week. 

It was a loss that hit me quite acutely, at a time when I thought I had no space in my heart for additional loss. It felt silly to cry over it, in the wake of such greater tragedies. 

the last picture I got of them

But my grief over these little birds is all tied up in the mourning I've been doing all summer, and I just can't begrudge it. I often understand large experiences and feelings in my life by contextualizing them through nature and animals, and I suppose this is no different. 


I have the nest, still. I am trying to decide on a ritual to do with it, to honor the four tiny lives. Small as matches, snuffed out as easily. 


I hope that you are connecting with the ones you love, and resting within the comfort of your community.  I hope there is something in your life, however small, that is providing you some measure of peace.  I hope you are holding yourself with compassion. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Reading a Spread: Prioritizing Your Energy

I started designing this spread a while back, with the intent of developing a spread with a lot of cards. I wanted to challenge myself to interpret larger quantities of cards at one time. But the spread designs just never came together, and my readings weren't especially helpful.  Today, I felt the need to do an energy-focusing spread, but just looking at the original design of nine cards was tiring.  I spontaneously came up with this four-card alternative, and I found the results much for useful for focusing my energy. I can't claim to have these bursts of insight often, but today I was lucky!


Being overwhelmed is more than just having too much to do.  It includes not only the stress of being overburdened, but the confusion of not even being able to tell what's important anymore. We probably don't feel like we have the support we need, but we're not quite sure how to ask for it. This spread is not intended to provide you with the full range of support or advice you might need to resolve all your issues; instead, it's a bit of triage. Use this spread if you need permission to let go of a view things, and for some gentle guidance on your next step.

CARD 1: Something to set aside for the moment.

Alright, I don't think this card is telling me to set aside The World in its entirety. Instead, I can release myself from worrying about the larger, overarching aspects of my life. This card suggests that, while planning ahead is healthy, now is not the time to obsess over what my life's legacy will be when it's time for me to leave my community. What a relief!

CARD 2: Something on which to increase focus

The eight of swords is about determining the best of limited options. I notice that the character on the card probably isn't thinking about her long-term plans; she just wants to know how to get those bindings off! Right now, my focus is on immediate issues and restrictions. I'm not necessarily searching for the perfect solution, just one that will help me move forward. Though it was a little striking to get this card, I think it makes a lot of sense when contextualized by the previous one. 

CARD 3: A perception or belief to challenge

I am really, really good at reviewing every single action I do or word I say in search of major screw-ups. Mostly my concerns are around being a good ally and not unwittingly perpetrating any forms of oppression. The queen of swords is, indeed, about the practical enaction of justice, and weighing all information fairly. In this position, though, she challenges me not to spend all my energy determining if my every tiny action is perfectly just. She's not asking me to reject my goals of a more equitable world, just to give myself a break sometimes to avoid burnout. 

CARD 4: Something to hold with compassion

Aw, I always feel so bad for the nine of wands. He just looks so tired. He's not frantically overburdened, like the ten of wands. No, he is resigned to his post, not necessarily believing that he actually makes a difference; I see him as going through the motions. This is the burnout that the queen of swords is warning me about! But to pull this card in this position reminds me: Even if I don't meet my goals, or don't handle my challenges perfectly, it is not a weakness. Being all used up isn't a personal deficit, and it is when we are feeling most useless that we need to hold ourselves with compassion.


Does this spread seem like it would help you focus your energy constructively?  Do you have alternate readings of these cards?  Do you find larger spreads difficult to manager, or do you find them rich and engaging?  Let us know in comments!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Storing Your Tarot Decks

Whether or not you see your tarot deck as a sacred tool of divination, a practical work of art, or some blend of the two, you want to keep your cards safe and preserve them well.  Cards inevitably wear with use, and no deck will last forever, but you can increase its lifespan by storing it well.

Additionally, how you store your cards influences your relationship with them.  Sliding your deck out of a flimsy, falling-apart cardboard box feels a lot less magical than opening a wooden box or untying a silk bag. If you plan it right, your interaction with your cards begins before you even shuffle them.

While I can't claim to have silk bags or wooden boxes, I thought I would share with you the many ways I store my decks.  See if there are any storage strategies you like!


 My favorite storage method involves sewing a small bag for my cards.  The one pictured to the right is just calico and ribbon; nothing too fancy, but it still feels special.  I hand-sewed it, and while that process did increase my intimacy with the bag and the deck, the only reason I didn't use my sewing machine is because it is broken.

Lots of folks put small crystals or herbs in their bags while storing their cards, with the intent of recharging their magic. I don't use crystals in my bag because I am afraid of them scratching my cards, but I am tempted to add a little lavender sometime.

It's always such a pleasure when a deck includes robust packaging. As you can see in the picture to the left, the Tarot Mucha comes in a thick, crisp box that stands upright with its own lid. The box is quite sturdy and will protect the cards just fine, and there is something very satisfying about opening or closing the lid. The packaging help gives substance to the experience of using this deck.

And here is what happens when your first deck that you don't really care about comes shrink wrapped in cellophane and nothing else.  This was my "false start" deck, that I bought and then ignored when the pips proved too difficult to interpret, quickly replacing it with my Waite-Smith.  It's no surprise, then, that I store it in what is basically repurposed garbage (old index card box and some motivational bracelet).

The thing is.... it works really well! This deck and I already have a playful relationship. I don't use it for serious questions, and it looks so goofy in its make-shift home, that the whole experience is aesthetically and spiritually consistent for me.

Finally, my good old Waite-Smith.  This is my default deck, and the deck I still return to when I need some real talk. I use this deck so often--multiple times a day--that it is never really put away.  On my desk, it sits on top of its bag (machine sewn by me), with my Zuni badger fetish sitting on top.  This deck and my badger fetish are probably the two most spiritually important objects I own; I don't know why I started doing it, but it just seemed right to perch it on top like that.

I will note that this deck is getting quite worn, and there is a risk to leaving it on my desk like this (it will be more likely to fade in the sun).


You'll notice that with each of these methods, I discussed how it influences my relationship with the cards. Your first priority is, of course, keeping your deck clean and preserved, but I encourage you to look to your card housing as another way to enrich your practice.  Maybe sewing your own bag is not in your wheelhouse, but would tying a ribbon around the deck (or a plastic bracelet!) make your tarot practice a bit more magical?

Do you see yourself using any of these strategies?  What other methods are there for keeping your deck comfy?  Let us know in comments!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cross-Deck Comparison with Two of Cups

You may have noticed that most, if not all, of my Readings and Closer Looks are done with the Waite-Smith deck. Indeed, some tarot readers do stick to one tradition, and all my decks are based roughly on that same deck. However, tarot artists interpret Waite's and Colman Smith's work in so many weird, robust ways, that there is still plenty of variation to explore. When I began to move into other decks, I wanted to challenge myself without being too overwhelmed by new meanings or inscrutable artwork.  There are many decks that cleave very closely to the Waite-Smith, but other ostensible "clones" seem entirely disconnected at first glance.

This cross-deck comparison looks at the Waite-Smith and three other decks in the same tradition, each with different levels of abstraction from the original imagery. I hope it gives you some insight into how to be flexible with different decks while still relying on the system you've already learned. We're looking at the Two of Cups across the decks listed below: 

  • Universal Waite: Art by Pamela Colman Smith, coloring by Mary Hanson Roberts. Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. (Note: I refer to this deck as my Waite-Smith deck.)
  • Tarot Mucha: Art by Giulia F. Massaglia and Barbara Nosenzo. Published by Lo Scarabeo.
  • Shadowscapes Tarot: Art by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. Published by Llewellyn Publishers.
  • Wooden Tarot: Art by A.L. Schwartz. Published by Skullgarden.


Let's start out with our Universal Waite. Simple, clear, and accessible, this imagery conveys a sense of romantic love by evoking a sense of formal commitment.  Facing each other, exchanging cups (as one might exchange rings or vows), framed by some divine winged lion, the two characters play their parts with little ambiguity.

The Tarot Mucha interprets Waite-Smith imagery through an art deco lens.  Though not drawn by Alphonse Mucha himself, the art evokes his style.  Our winged, lion-headed caduceus still frames the picture, and a pair of actors still exchange cups.  This illustration, however, exchanges the stiff formality of the Waite-Smith for willowy lines and postures of repose. If the Waite-Smith shows a scene from a play, the Tarot Mucha is its real-life correlate.  Interpreting the meaning will not be much of a challenge.

I've written about the Shadowscapes Tarot before, and I'm happy to have another chance to show it off. This deck has us moving further away from the classic Waite-Smith imagery; notice that Pui-Mun Law has removed our weird winged lion dude, and our characters are not really exchanging cups in a ceremony (though you will see there are still two cups in the picture).

This artist conveys her meaning through a sense of movement and intuition. Instead of two humans exchanging an item, we have two nymphs/dryads/ents literally wrapping around each other, with a cute little heart ornament hanging above them, like a sprig of mistletoe encouraging a kiss. Glowing golden fish linger nearby, blurring the lines between earth, water, and sky.

While drastically reinterpreting the Waite-Smith deck, Pui-Mun Law calls on her own tools to convey the same meaning. Interpreting this deck won't be too hard, but will become much easier the more you work with it.

Finally, we have the Wooden Tarot, one of my current favorite decks.  By far the most surreal version we've seen, this two of cups forgoes human actors altogether.  Indeed, you'll note that it's not even the two of cups; the Wooden Tarot replaces cups with blooms.

This bloom may at first look like a single blossom, but it actually appears to be two flowers back to back, creating one large double bloom. This suggests to me the synthesis of two things becoming one. The suit of blooms in the Wooden Tarot very strongly convey a sense of tenderness to me, so I can extrapolate that meaning into the synthesis of two passions into friendship or love.

Here, we have a card that is technically based on Waite-Smith symbology; however, interpreting this card in isolation will work better if you are familiar with the deck as a whole.


What do you think, folks?  Of these two of cups, do you have a favorite? Does seeing the same cards across several decks give you any insight into the meaning?  Let us know in comments! 

Monday, July 4, 2016

June + A Closer Look: Four of Swords

If you have been following DHT, you'll notice that June has been slow/nonexistent on the blog.  I'd like to apologize to any readers that have continued to check, or have been waiting for an update.  Without getting into too much detail, I've had to focus on my job search more intently and needed to free up some energy.  Now, I'm looking forward to getting back into a regular posting schedule, and I hope you're still along for the ride!

June was, in some ways, a month of recovery for me.

I didn't necessarily have an Event or Issue to recover from, but I clearly needed to withdraw.  Seems to me, then, that I should start off July with a Closer Look at the Four of Swords.


Key words and concepts

  • Retreat
  • Recovery
  • Solitude
  • Rest
  • Seclusion
  • Reflection

The four of swords radiates calm to me. A quiet tomb, featuring a peaceful statue with hands folded in repose, lies safely in a place of worship. There is little movement, and no living actors.  It is a time of rest and recovery.

Like many cards in the suit of swords, the imagery here is easily misread as pessimistic. My culture (anglo USian) does not have a particularly positive or healthy relationship with death, in my view, and thus any representation of it usually invokes fear first.

But what is portrayed here is not death, the final good-bye. This death is total stillness, where all movement--even metabolism--ceases. It is the relief of a held breath exhaled, a moment of released tension. Only with this ultimate relaxation can we truly gather the strength needed to move forward onto our next challenge.

The four of swords, despite its seeming portrayal of finality, is actually about resting up for the next big thing.  It says you've worked hard enough, achieved something worthy, and it's time to stop worrying. It necesitates solitude, either physical and mental, in order to achieve stillness. Don't worry, though; you're not going away forever, and when you return, you'll be stronger than ever!


Does the four of swords speak of recovery to you? Is the death imagery too strong to be comforting? What other symbols or landscapes evoke a sense of solitude and inward recovery in your life?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tell Us About Your Tarot Practice!

We all love those internet quizzes that get passed around, either on blogs or in email chains, where we get to share fun, quirky information about ourselves. Well, as I've participated more and more in the tarot community, I'm continuously excited to learn more about its members. That means YOU, reader of this blog!

Here are a few questions/answers about my own tarot journey.  Pick one or two to answer in comments, and let's get to know each other!


1.  Why did you first start practicing tarot?

I'm a huge geek and was really interested in learning a new system, plus I think tarot decks are really pretty!

2.  What was your first tarot deck?

I picked up some "Teach Yourself Tarot" kit at Barnes and Noble.  The deck has lovely illustrations for the trump and court cards, but the rest of the Minor Arcana are only pips, so it was difficult to learn from (not to mention the little white book was... not great). 

3.  What card do you identify with strongly?

It's a little difficult to pick a "favorite" card, especially since their meanings and purposes change so much, but whenever Strength pops up, I feel a special affinity! I really like that it refers to internal strength, and not physical strength.

4.  What card tends to be difficult for you?

Until recently, the seven of swords was pretty much an enigma for me. I had a few breakthroughs in some recent readings, though, and I have a better relationship with it.  Currently, the four of pentacles has been doing weird things in my readings. 

5.  How often do you read?  Do you have a ritual around it?

I do at least a three card spread every morning, and lay my cards out on silk with curios and other special items. 

6.  Do you stick to a "classic" deck (Waite-Smith, Thoth, Marseille), or do you explore alternative tarot systems?

I'm basically a Waite-Smith girl, with all my current decks being some kind of variation on it.  As I get more confident, I'd like to try some other, more abstract decks, and I definitely want to work with a Marseille deck sometime.  I'm not a big Thoth fan, but it's fun to see how other people read it.

7.  Do you use other forms of divination?

Not yet!  I'm interested in learning how to throw bones, though.

8. What are your current goals for your tarot practice?

Keep up my daily three card reading, and work on learning reversals!


Share your answers to a few in comments below, or feel free to post all your answers on your blog!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Court Cards: A Down Home Approach

Even if you're a beginner, you probably recognize the difference between the Major and Minor Arcana.  You might already have a decent handle on the suits, and their domains and symbolism.  If you're anything like me, though, the court cards still feel beyond your reach.

The first suggestion you will see for how to read court cards is to read them as literal people in your or the querent's life.  Some readers even go so far as to say that a court card can identify a person down to their eye color!  Now, if the querent notes that one of the court cards looks like somebody specific in their life, that is definitely something to pay attention to (I once had a querent look at the Page of Swords and exclaim, "That's my ex!"). If it occurs naturally (and it does), that's one cool permutation of a court card. But the truth is, that could happen for any character on any tarot card. I find trying to read court cards as specific people can feel cumbersome, and removes a lot of subtlety from the reading process.

Still, the court cards feel unique from the rest of the Minor Arcana; they seem to have somewhat more independent personalities.  I really like Daily Tarot Girl's method for getting to know the court card, treating them as their own unique actors in the deck. She isn't necessarily saying they always correlate to a real-life human, but they do seem more like fleshed-out characters than the rest of the Minor Arcana. I think her exercises are absolutely wonderful if you are just starting to get to know the court cards.

When I started to devise my own approach to the court cards, I was drawn to the idea of each position referring to a level of maturity; that is to say, Pages are children, Knights are youths, Queens are adults, and Kings are old and wise.  Aside from the implications about gender, this was a good starting point for me.  I decided that, for me, each court card spoke to a step in our journey of relating to the world (much the way the Major Arcana describe our path through life). Pages are just starting their journeys; Knights have more confidence, Kings are ready to make decisions, and Queens see the process as a whole (my Queens outrank my Kings).

So what does that mean for reading the cards?  Well, it means knowing the domains of each suit, so that you can see what each court card presides over. For me, it made sense for me to give each court card a motto, and I am not the first person to hear the court cards speak in first person!  You will find, within a spread, that each court card may have a lot more to say, but these mottos are a good starting point.

I've grouped them below by court level instead of by suit; this way, you can see what I mean by the progression in our personal story. We start out relating to the world as a new, wondrous thing; we gain confidence, begin to act upon the world and shape it, and ultimately gain a perspective of our experience as only a piece of a larger whole.  Our paths are not linear, either; we can return to a Page chapter of our lives many times, or we may feel like a Knight in one domain and a Queen in the other.



  • Cups: I have innocent trust in the validity of my emotions.
  • Pentacles: I approach the physical world with fascination and wonder.
  • Wands: My enthusiasm leads to uninhibited, spontaneous action.
  • Swords: I am eager to learn everything about anything!


  • Cups: I have confidence that my emotional compass will point the right way. 
  • Pentacles: I have faith that consistent hard work will bring reward. 
  • Wands: I strive to experience life in the fullest!
  • Swords: My intellect will lead me to success.


  • Cups: I balance my emotions when making decisions.
  • Pentacles: Success comes through hard work and reasonable expectations.
  • Wands: Passion, tempered by experience, guides my decision-making. 
  • Swords: I use logic to come to just decisions.


  • Cups: I have the intuitive ability to understand the important role of emotions throughout our lives. 
  • Pentacles: Hard work is most noble when it serves not only your house, but your community. 
  • Wands: Passion promotes growth, in our communities and ourselves. 
  • Swords: Wisdom comes from the ability to evaluate experience rationally. 


A Note On Gender

I could write a whole blog post on the fuckery that is gender representation in traditional tarot; I'm not ignorant that my beloved Universal Waite-Smith features exclusively hetero-cis-normative folks (though I do my best to expand my interpretation of those characters). When reading court cards, I remove gender as much as my colonized mind can.  That is to say, any individual court card is not tied to a specific gender, but rather speaks to a potentially universal experience. 

This is all well and good, but what we need is better representation on tarot cards. I am completely over the moon for decks like the Numinous Tarot, which features not only non-binary, non-cis folks (kings with boobs! queens with beards!), but does a great job of featuring people of color, too.  In other words, this deck actually looks like real the people in my life.  And if you're not already reading Cassandra Snow's Queering the Tarot, you should; it's a series of essays at Little Red Tarot that brings a queer lens to tarot card meanings, ultimately helping to shape a more inclusive and accurate practice of tarot. 

Does this approach to court cards resonate with you?  Are there other approaches you prefer?  How do you incorporate (or extract) the power of gender in your tarot practice?  Let us know!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Closer Look: Eight of Swords

Key words and concepts

  • Feeling trapped
  • Helplessness
  • Fear of change
  • Obstacles
  • Restriction

Sometimes, the meaning of tarot cards is elusive, and not immediately clear from their illustrations.

Then you have the eight of swords.

All kidding aside, this is some pretty straight-forward imagery.  The woman is literally bound and blindfolded, and the encircling blades are evocative of the bars on a jail cell. Restriction and helplessness practically drip off of this card.

But even if this is the first time you've seen this card, you've probably already noticed that the circle of swords doesn't completely surround her, and those bindings haven't immobilized her feet and legs. You're thinking, "If I were stuck like that, I could just hop around a bit and get out of it!" And you're probably right! The key to the eight of swords is that, very often when we feel stuck, it's because we haven't actually considered all of our options.

Now, this isn't to put all the blame on our heroine here. She has been tied up; there are eight weapons literally blocking some of her paths. Some people read this card as signifying that your obstacles are of your own making, but that doesn't ring true to me; we've all had times in our lives where we just could not, for one reason or another, figure out how to get un-stuck.  Sometimes it is because we are creating problems that we otherwise wouldn't have, but sometimes it's because we are facing truly daunting issues.

When I see the eight of swords, I tell myself not that I am the cause of all my problems, but that I have become stuck in my perspective.  Sometimes, we know what decision we need to make, but we don't want to admit it to ourselves because we are anxious about the consequences of that decision. The eight of swords asks us to think about what is more important: Avoiding the consequences of that decision, or getting yourself un-stuck?  That's not a glib question; sometimes, we have to stay stuck awhile before we find the right path forward. Sometimes, we have to find small changes we can make for ourselves. Maybe we can't knock down all of those swords, but are there ways you can loosen the blindfold?

The eight of swords calls on us to truly evaluate all possible options, even if they are frightening or distasteful. It's not blaming us for our set-backs; it's asking us if they are really as dire as they seem. Reading with compassion, the eight of swords is a gentle inquiry about what we are empowered to do, despite the other restrictions in our lives.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reading a Spread: The Wind Chimes

As I've mentioned before, I start reading tarot out of geekiness rather than mysticism.  The Wind Chimes spread, however, is a clear result of my mystic side.  I wanted to develop a spread that was simple, and focused on high-intensity emotions while still providing a sense of calm.  While working on such a spread, I heard my recently-hung wind chimes gently sound from the backyard. As anyone with wind chimes can attest, wind chimes help soothe and clarify, and I was able to come up with the following spread.  I imagine each card sounding out its own clear note to form shifting harmonies of meaning.


Our emotional lives can be sources of great energy, motivation, and self-awareness, but they can also lead us to confusion and disorientation.  We incorporate intense emotional experiences into our sense of self over time, so stating that an emotion is "ordered" or "disordered" is not a way to pass judgment, but rather a way to identify where we are in the process. 

CARD 1: What makes you sing? (Where are your emotions intense, but coherent?)

It took me awhile to get to know the seven of swords--he's got a bit of a shit-eating grin that can be off-putting--but I've learned to recognize the lessons he brings. He's sneaking away with an armful of swords, looking over his shoulder gleefully at the two he's left behind. I get the impression that carnival behind him wasn't actually that great, and he's managing to get out of a bad situation in the best shape possible. While working to disconnect myself from some previous, unhelpful beliefs, I recently came to a point where I am content with that loss.  The loss is still intense, but I have a coherent sense of what it means for me as a person.

CARD 2: What makes you shout? (Where are your emotions disordered?)

The Magician has been popping up a lot for me.  The Magician is about synthesizing all aspects of yourself in order to manifest your dreams. No big deal, right? Of course I'm still disordered around these emotions; I'm trying to honor new aspects of myself while trying to determine what my true desires even are.  An exciting time in my life, to be sure, but absolutely still a measure of disorder!

CARD 3: What makes you cry? (What do you process internally?)

I get the two of wands a lot, too. This card is actually about using a solid sense of self to build on.  Like anybody, I consult people I trust and respect when I am struggling, but at the end of the day, I am comfortable relying on my inner moral compass. Ultimately, this card reflects to me that my sense of self comes largely from my internal processes, and less from how others define me.  I hope I can live up to it!

CARD 4: What makes you laugh? (What do you process externally?)

Guys, I think the Page of Cups is just a little sweetheart.  I don't know if it's the pink stockings, that charming curtsy, or the fact that the dude is carrying around a fish in a goblet. He ultimately signifies trust in the validity of our emotions; the truth is, I often check in with a few loved ones to evaluate the appropriateness of my emotional responses.  This can be really, really healthy if you are being gaslighted and need to check in with somebody you trust, or if you are caught in a self-destructive spiral; however, I don't want to let it invalidate my own emotional responses.  This card encourages me to pay attention to how often and when I rely on others to validate my emotions.

CARD 5: What orchestrates your passions?  (What concept ties together your emotional reality?)

Of course the court of cups is making a strong appearance in a spread about emotions. The King of Cups is, naturally, a leader who relies on his emotional intelligence; I think of him as a leader who embraces charity and intuition.  He's not quite as naive as, say, the Page, though; the King understands that our emotions must be balanced with other information and pragmatism. In orchestrating my emotions and their varying levels of intensity, it's important for me to remember that all of my reactions are valid in their contribution to my internal symphony of self.  It's perfectly reasonable, though, to base my actions on not only my emotions, but on a variety of factors.

This spread reinforces to me that I am in a period of emotional growth and flux, but that I am able to find internal balance despite the disorder in some areas of my life. I can rely on my internal process for a sense of self, but I know there are still plenty of issues for me to work through!


This spread relies more on intuition than some of the other spreads I've shown.  How does that approach work for you?  Do you like the card significance to be a little more cut and dry?  Could you see yourself using this spread? (I offer it in my Etsy store as one of my readings.)  How would you modify it to create your own set of wind chimes? Let us know!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Deck Review: Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I was very pleased recently to purchase the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.  This deck is well-loved by the tarot community for its lush, detailed, evocative illustrations.  The deck essentially follows Waite-Smith conventions, but even where the symbology doesn't match up, the feel of the cards lends itself to intuitive readings pretty easily.  I'm not generally somebody to drool over soft watercolors, but the sheer skill in Pui-Mun Law's execution--combined with the dynamic energy in the cards--has me seduced.  Apparently, Pui-Mun Law has a background as a flamenco dancer, and that movement is very clear in the illustrations!

The cards are a bit bigger than playing cards, but much smaller than my Universal Waite-Smith; the Shadowscapes deck is actually the perfect size for my hands.  The backs are reversible (in case you want to read reversals), featuring a lovely circular design evocative of carved stone, seemingly illuminated by stars. The cardstock quality is firm but with enough give for easy shuffling.  Pui-Mun Law has associated each suit with an animal, a device I always love.  Wands are foxes, providing the suit with a clever, fiery energy.  The fish and aquatic creatures in the suit of cups conveys the watery world of love and emotion.  The swans, with their aloof nature, are a perfect fit for the airy suit of swords.  Finally, in an interesting twist, pentacles are accompanied by lizards and dragons of varying shapes and sizes (traditionally, salamanders and lizards are historically associated with fire, and thus the suit of wands). 

Below, I have a selection of cards that I pulled for a deck interview spread (I took this one from Little Red Tarot, who credits TABI).  I learned a lot about the deck and its uses through this exercise!


What is your most important characteristic?

This card is a great example of the swirling energy present throughout the deck.  The Knight of Cups has confidence in the compass provided by his emotional reality.  He sees beauty and love everywhere.  This deck believes in the validity of dreams, and in celebrating that which is true and beautiful. 

What are your strengths?

I quite like this take on the Eight of Swords. While the large, frantic swan is trapped amidst the thorns, the tiny, nimble hummingbird can navigate them with little danger.  This deck shines as a source of calm when facing a crisis or stressful situation. 

What are your limits?

Pui-Mun Law's Temperance features a turbulent balance between yellow and blue, warm and cool, light and shade.  The meaning of this trump card--balance and cooperation--is very apparent in the illustration.  As a limitation, this deck may not always provide a balanced view.  It will be a good source of assurance and comfort, but probably not the deck to go to if I need a harsh wake-up call. 

What are you here to teach me?

What a delightful card to pull!  The Magician calls on all the elements in balanced measure, as represented by the hanging adornments fastened to his wings (each represents a classical element, and thus, a suit).  This deck will be a good source of strength and motivation towards manifesting my goals. 

How can I best learn and collaborate with you?

This card is really breathtaking.  The swirling energy so common in Pui-Mun Law's art is evocative of the nautilus, a perfect crown for this King of Cups. The ropey texture of the kelp gives this card a unique feel, and the dignified turtles give a special weight to the king in a suit mostly characterized by small, whimsical fish. I especially like this card as an echo to the earlier Knight of Cups.  I am reminded to approach this deck with patience, and expect and accept from it compassion.

What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

The Two of Swords can represent an impasse or stalemate (when teaching myself card meanings, my mnemonic for this card was "between a rock and a hard place.")  I have since learned that the card can also be read as tranquility and acceptance for the pauses in our lives.  This deck, then, is not here to get me all the way to my goals and tell me everything I need to know; instead, this deck will help me find tranquility when I feel stuck.  


It looks like my relationship with the Shadowscapes Tarot will be less about finding balanced, complicated truths, and more about reconnecting with my most authentic emotional self. I can think of no better guide than Pui-Mun Law's delicate, luminous art.  

Is this a deck you could see yourself using?  Is this the first time you've seen it?  Let us know!

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Morning Tarot

I'll be honest.  When I started tarot, it was to give me something to do with my hands, and a hobby for my spare time.  It has since become a practice that I do regularly, and I come to with specific needs, energy, and respect.  But the truth is, I really didn't do much to be mindful around my tarot at first.  I barely even kept a tarot journal, the ultimate necessity if you're trying to learn the cards. I slapped the cards around while watching TV, or mindlessly while in conversation with my partner.  I'm not saying any of that is bad, necessarily, but my relationship with my deck became much richer when I brought more mindfulness to my practice.

My early inspiration came from photos I saw shared by other tarot readers on their websites.  They often had altars prepared, or beautiful cloth laid out for their spread.  Many folks adorn their readings with gems and special herbs.  All of these things can have special, sacred meanings, but damn, they also just look pretty!  I realized that I could make my tarot experience a little more magical if I took a bit of time to create a special space for my readings.  Now, I pull a three-card reading for myself every single morning, and the ritual has become a really important part of my day. I'd like to share it with you!

I do my readings at a desk in my small home office.  There's my coffee on the right, and an open window to the left.  

You can see my tarot cards are laid out on a silk scarf, which I picked up at a thrift store.  I lay out little trinkets and curios that I have collected.  Some of them have special meaning, and some of them I just think look cool!

After I unfold my silk scarf, I lay out the curios in whatever way strikes my fancy.  I shuffle and meditate on my cards, and then lay them out.  Then, I place that huge hunk of quartz at the bottom of the tableau, and sort of let the whole display wash over me as I interpret the cards.  When I feel like I've come to the end of the reading, I take my journal out and note the cards I pulled and how I interpreted them.  Then I carefully put everything away. 

As a result, I am much more centered and mindful for my readings, and I find their significance stays with me steadily throughout the day.  You may not want to do something that takes this much effort; in fact, you may not be interested in something this serious.  If, however, you find yourself wanting to use tarot in a more spiritually significant way, I definitely recommend creating a sense of ritual.  It could be brief and uncomplicated.  The space you create may be more mental and less physical, but by giving tarot a little more room to breath, you will be rewarded by a richer experience.

Do you have a tarot routine?  Do you see yourself developing one?  What are ways that you create space in your life for introspection?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Posing Your Query

When reading for folks who have only a passing familiarity with tarot, you  may have to help your querent craft their question. The inquiry shouldn't be too vague, but looking to the cards for very specific direction can also leave you disappointed.  Many of the topics people think of as "classic" tarot questions are actually avoided by the best tarot readers.  Ultimately, how we pose questions for the cards depends a lot on how we understand the purpose of tarot.

Today, I'll be walking you through what tarot can and can't do for a querent, and how that helps us ask more effective questions.  You will learn what kind of questions to avoid, and how to reframe them in an effective way.

Tarot and Divination

Sometimes, when folks hear the word divination, they think of magical ways to see into the future and methods for psychically reading people's minds.  In contrast, I think of divination as a method for getting in touch with your own intuition in order to gain insight into a situation.  I see tarot as less supernatural, and more a function of universal archetype and narrative.  Others may see divine spirits, angels, or fairies guiding the selection of cards, but they still recognize that tarot is not predicting an immutable future or dictating literal instructions for us. Both of these approaches still necessarily acknowledge the role of free will.

Questions to Avoid

We want to phrase questions that allow for free will.  For example, "How do I make this sexy dude love me?" is not going to yield satisfying results, because that sexy dude has free will, and he may never love you in a way you find satisfying, no matter what you do.  Tarot can't change that.

Really, anything that is asking for advice on how to create a "sure thing" isn't great.  Tarot isn't making claims for certainty; it's providing you a scaffolding to help you find a direction from your own intuition.  For these reasons, I avoid questions that include:

  • discerning or influencing motivations and actions of third parties
  • identifying precise dates when something will occur
  • asking for specific, literal instructions on how to make something occur
  • anything that treats Tarot like a Ouiji board (yes/no questions, or looking for one-word answers)

I really like The Tarot Reader's explanation of questions to avoid, if you're looking for a quick and easy way to think about it.

It's also important to acknowledge that some people may come to tarot with specific questions about their physical health ("Why can't I sleep well?" "How will my surgery on Friday go?").  I will not answer medical questions with tarot, and will instead refer those querents to healthcare resources.  If a querent is interested in learning more about dealing emotionally with the consequences of a medical situation, I may consider it.  This can be a tricky rule, since what is a medical health problem and what is an emotional or spiritual issue isn't always cut and dry, but I encourage you to use tarot as it should be--as a spiritual tool--and not a supplement or predictor for medical care.

How to Phrase a Question

When we are trying to learn more about our place in the world, we tend to look outward for answers.  After all, a querent has turned to you, another person, to help them translate tarot cards, an external tool.  The truth is, tarot helps us focus inward.  Questions should reflect that inward direction.  I encourage people to frame questions in terms of internal mental or spiritual processes, and not minimizing their role in crafting their own future. (I've seen this described as having the querent take responsibility.) Let's look at an example.

A casual friend has asked for a tarot reading.  They are tired of job searching, and they want to know when they will find a job.  They ask you, "When will I get a job I'm excited about?" hoping that it will give them a timeline, and a way to recognize the right job when it comes along.

The querent is asking a question that looks at the job search like an inevitable, fixed destiny.  If they could only pin a date on it, they wouldn't have to worry about the job search anymore!  Well, unfortunately, tarot isn't really about eliminating our worries.  It's about helping us find new ways to process and learn from them.  So how could we change this question?

Well, spend some time finding out more about the querent's motivation. What urged them to ask this question?  Perhaps frustrated and anxious, and just want the whole thing to be over.  Maybe they don't know what to do next, so they are looking for simple, explicit answers.  Ultimately, we want come up with a question such that the results give the querent a framework for introspection.  I might suggest:

  • What kind of energy should I try to bring to my job search?
  • How will I recognize a good opportunity when it presents itself?
  • What should I change about my approach to the job search?

You can see that each question is about the querent's internal life--the energy one brings, the ability to recognize value, and the need to adjust one's own perspective.  I think Biddy Tarot's comparison of two similar questions is instructive here. Remember, tarot spreads essentially come in the form of a narrative; the responses we receive are stories, not solutions.

Ultimately, my rules for formulating tarot questions are pretty simple.  Avoid questions that treat destiny as a fixed certainty, or that disregard the role of free will.  Encourage questions that address internal processes.  My go-to phrasing is often something like, "What kind of energy do I need to bring to [x]?" or "How can I move forward with [x]?"  I will also often ask, "What can I learn from [x]?"

The links in this post all take you to some great sites with further suggestions for question-phrasing, so I won't list out other frameworks here.  I will finish up by sending you over to Daily Tarot Girl, who has a great list of 20 simple, accessible questions for you to practice with.  These would also be great questions for getting to know your deck better.

I hope this makes framing questions a little easier, and that this approach yields rich results for you and your querents!

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Closer Look: The Tower

Key words and concepts
  • Sudden change
  • Upheaval
  • Disaster
  • Breakthroughs
  • Reexamination of beliefs
  • Death of hubris

A few days ago, I had a dream with the Tower in it; the next day, it jumped out of my deck, so I figured that I would use it as my Closer Look.  I'm also paying close attention to the breakthroughs in my life this week!

Cards are not "good" or "bad," but rather show experiences and energies in our lives.  We decide how to interpret and act upon these experiences.  There are a few cards, though, that have such vividly fearful imagery that it's hard to see past the negative.  The Tower definitely has a reputation as one of these cards.

In one sense, I understand it.  The Tower shows sudden, unavoidable change, and it's change on a pretty profound level.  This isn't the change that comes with, for example, starting a new job after a long and purposeful job search; this is the change that comes with realizing that some of your deeply-held values no longer reflect your needs and experience.  While this isn't always a negative thing in the long-term, this kind of disruption to our worldview inevitably leaves us confused, uncomfortable, and probably at least a little scared.  You can see, then, why the Tower has a bit of a reputation!

On the other hand, the discomfort and destruction shown in this card ultimately make way for new growth, like a natural forest fire allowing for the resurrection of the ecosystem.  In the Fool's journey (the story told by the progression of the Major Arcana), the Tower comes after the Devil; if the Devil represents bondage and enslavement, the Tower is actually the destruction of those chains.  Even though it doesn't feel good to have our beliefs dismantled, it is likely that those beliefs did not actually serve our authentic values.  The Tower allows us to rebuild our beliefs in a way that is healthier and stronger, but this reconstruction can't occur without the loss that precedes it.

I am using this appearance of the Tower to embrace a recent change of perspective in my life.  It's been uncomfortable, and I have definitely had to mourn the loss of some cherished beliefs, but there is a part of me that is hugely relieved.  I have much more hope for the future sustainability of my beliefs, now that I've had a breakthrough.  When the Tower appears, it is likely that sudden change--accompanied by discomfort and disillusionment--is a factor.  Don't let that hide the fact that destruction ultimately makes way for creation!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Quick Update + I need your help!

Hello folks!  I will be returning with regular content on Monday, May 23rd (the Closer Look on deck is the Tower).  In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about an opportunity to get a reading for half price!

Most of my tarot reading experience has been done in person.  As you know, however, my Etsy shop offers readings done through email in a .pdf file.  I would really like to get some feedback about how that format is working for people.

This is where you come in.  If you are interested in filling out a short survey about one of my readings, you will get 50% off any spread in the shop.  Here's how the process goes:
1.  You are interested in the discount; awesome!  Send an email to with the subject "Feedback Discount."  In the email, tell me what your favorite card is!  (If you don't have a favorite card, or if you don't know the deck well enough, that's cool too.)
2.  You will receive an email from me with a discount code for my Etsy shop.  After selecting your spread, enter the code and pay half for your reading!
3.  The results of your spread will be emailed to you as a .pdf file.  I will also send you a brief survey (5-10 questions) in the body of the email; you fill out the answers (1-2 sentences per question is plenty) in a reply.
4.  You get a discounted reading, I get feedback on how to provide better readings, and everybody wins!
This discount  is available to the first five people who email me.  I'm really excited to be offering this discount, and I can't wait to get your feedback!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Trump Cards and the Zodiac

There is a ton of overlap with astrology in tarot, and many practitioners incorporate its principles when reading the cards. I'll confess: I get really overwhelmed by astrology!  I have friends who are really interested in it, and I love hearing them talk about it, but for some reason it all feels like too much to keep track of.  It's funny, because I'm sure it's not any more complex than the infinite combinations of tarot cards.  I guess we are all drawn to different systems.

But you know what I'm going to say: Down Home Tarot is about keeping it simple, and only adding complexity if it's easy and fun for you.  Today, I'm sharing the area of astrology that I incorporate sometimes.

Each (western) Zodiac sign correlates to a card in the Major Arcana, so if you know you're birthday, you can find an associated trump card that is your Zodiac card.  What does this mean?  Well, it means if it shows up in readings, it could signify you in that position.  Or it could mean that the characteristics of that card can give you insight into how you approach life's challenges.  Or, you know, it could just be one more card that you remember a little easier!  Despite my surface-level understanding of the Zodiac, I really like my sign, so I like seeing my card pop up in readings.  It doesn't necessarily reveal some huge amazing insight, but it's one more tiny connection that creates a richer experience for me.

I've included what I know about each sign's association with its trump card (which is, admittedly, not much.)  This is intended to help you see if you are interested in this system, not necessarily give you detailed information. Without further ado, I present to you the Tarot Zodiac!


Aries (March 21-April 19)— The Emperor

Your card, the first in the Zodiac, is about leadership and power.  Note that the Emperor's throne is adorned with rams, signifying the connection to Aries.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)— The Hierophant

The Hierophant is often associated with institutions and mentorship.  

Gemini (May 2-June 20)— The Lovers

There are other cards in the tarot deck that more literally represent love; this card, fittingly, is about our dual nature, and making important decisions.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)— The Chariot

The Chariot often symbolizes mastery over opposing forces, and sometimes travel. Check out his star-spangled canopy, and the Hermetic Zodiac-like symbols on his skirt!

Leo (July 23-August 22)— Strength

The lion on the card makes it the obvious correlate to Leo.  This isn't my sign, but it's one of my special cards!

Virgo (August 23-September 22)— The Hermit

The Hermit calls on us to look inward for strength and guidance.  I know very little about its association with Virgo.

Libra (September 23-October 22)— Justice

The only inanimate Zodiac sign, Libra's scales match up nicely with the scales of Justice.  This is my sign, so I note this card carefully when it comes up in a personal reading.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21)— Death

I was supposed to be a Scorpio!  This date range includes Halloween, Samhain, and el Dia de los Meurtos.  Like the card, these holidays address not only Death, but the cycle of renewal.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)— Temperance

Temperance is a comforting card to me.  She signifies balance, moderation, and cooperation.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19)— The Devil

Capricorn includes the prefix capri-, referring to goats (what does capricious mean if not playfully goat-like?).  You see how the Devil has been conflated with the horned Pan, a satyr who represents mirth and indulgence.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18)— The Star

The Star is a card of optimism and clarity.  Notice how water dominates the imagery, with the woman pouring water from jugs in both hands, making it a fitting card for Aquarius. 

Pisces (February 19-March 20)— The Moon

The moon is a mysterious card! I associate it with hidden knowledge, and the intuition that arises from our limbic brain.  Note the blue lobster up front (representing that limbic brain), giving us a reference to Pisces' fish.


Are you particularly tied to your Zodiac sign?  What do you think of its associated card?  Do you see yourself incorporating astrology in your practice, or will it be more of an incidental interest?  Share your thoughts!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Closer Look: Queen of Pentacles

Key words and concepts

  • Comfort
  • Security
  • Abundance
  • Family
  • Compassion
  • Stewardship
  • Sensitivity to surroundings

I grew up in a small town, and like most teenagers, struggled a lot with friendship and identity.  In middle school and high school, I hung out pretty exclusively with a small group of guys.  In typical teenage fashion, I often struggled to relate to my own mother (she is an awesome lady, but we are both similar to the Queen of Swords and didn't always mesh), so having the mother of one of my guy friends sort of take me under her wing was really valuable.

She was a passionate gardener, and her name was Rose, of course.  She had the quiet patience and compassion that goes with being a kindergarten teacher (her profession), as well as the sense of humor and quick wit that comes from growing up as a dorky, not-traditionally-beautiful girl (something I desperately needed to relate to as a teenager).  Whenever I pull the Queen of Pentacles, I smile and say, "Oh hey, Rose, nice to see you!" This Queen--and my childhood role model--both serve to remind me that compassion for yourself and others is never a bad move, and that there is comfort to be had in cultivating your home.

The Queen of Pentacles offers warmth, comfort, and security--but she worked for it.  This queen doesn't hire a gardner or groundskeeper; she is in the dirt, caring for her flowers and vegetables.  She's up at dawn to milk the cows herself, and the result is a cultivated and healthy domain of her own doing.  And look at the results!  Her throne is richly carved with animals and fruits, and vines of roses wind their way around the border.  She's even attracted a happy little bunny at her feet (when she was younger, she was probably that Disney princess who had birds help her get dressed in the morning). I think of her very much as a steward of not only her land, but of its plants and creatures, as well as the human subjects of her kingdom.  

When I read court cards, I often think of them as attitudes we can take (as opposed to reading them as literal people in our lives).  The Queen of Pentacles' motto is, “Hard work is most noble when it serves not only your own house, but your community and the earth.”  She values abundance and hard work, but in the context of service to the greater good.  She is a reminder to prioritize our values, even if we are in the midst of the rat race of capitalism, and to use our gains in a way that encourages healthy, equitable growth. 

Is there somebody in your life who provides this queen's energy?  When have you embodied it yourself?  How else does the Queen of Pentacles show up in your life?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Reading a Spread: Fried Chicken

Awhile back, I was tweeting with Fiona Benjamin (of Modern Fortune Teller) about the joys of Southern (USian) living... especially the food!  When I moved to the South, I was particularly delighted to find out that fried chicken was an acceptable breakfast. Our conversation inspired me to create the Fried Chicken Spread, with special kudos to Fiona for suggesting the Gravy Card!


Though this spread is playful, it's based in the real value of sharing a delicious meal from your culture.  Food not only nourishes us, it delights us and connects us with our family, community, and history.  This spread is a good way to gain insight into self-care, and to encourage you to do what you need to for your body, mind, and spirit. Using my Universal Waite-Smith, I served up this spread!

CARD 1 - Something to Nourish

First and foremost, we eat food to survive.  Even something like fried chicken--which may not seem that nutritious--provides calories and protein that we need.  The Empress nurtures and protects, and symbolizes abundance.  This warm, maternal energy tells me not to feel guilty about indulging sometimes, because self-care is important.  Even fried chicken can be part of a balanced meal!

CARD 2 - Something to Delight

There's really nothing like the first bite of your favorite dish.  It's a full-body appreciation that is difficult to put in the words, but "bliss" comes close.  That simple, visceral joy is powerful, and we can prioritize it by looking for additional ways to experience it.  Though the five of wands is often associated with ego and conflict, I couldn't help but see a friendly pick-up game of soccer or football in this context.  The high energy and playfulness of impromptu games helps us manifest joy in a very physical way.  

CARD 3 - Something to Connect

I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a culture that didn't use food as a focus for social gatherings.  This card demonstrates that connection with others is often an important part of self-care, and the three of wands appropriately signifies collaboration and opportunities for partnerships.  I imagine making space for creative acts that involve others.  Examples include joining a local theater group, starting a band, or being a part of a table-top gaming group. 

CARD 4 - The Gravy Card:  A Little Extra!

And finally, on top of it all, something special to tie it together.  The gravy card adds a little extra flavor and richness, infusing the other cards.  The two of wands is forward-looking, relying on a stable sense of self for progress.  In the end, one of the most powerful ways to care for ourselves is to acknowledge the validity of our unique experiences and worldview.  Connect with whatever makes you feel the most like yourself!  Observe that feeling, and let it guide you through the nourishment, delight, and connection of the other cards. 


I recently talked about reading runs of Minor Arcana, and having three cards sharing a suit show up in this spread provides a perfect chance to practice. Wands symbolize passion and creative energy, and maybe a little spontaneity.  Within the context of this spread, I interpret this run to mean that the querent can embrace an energetic, intuitive approach to self care, with special focus on creative outlets.


I hope these cards inspire you to connect not only with others, but with yourself (and I hope I didn't make you too hungry!)  What kinds of energized, creative, collaborative activities do you enjoy for self-care?  Does your self-care tend to manifest itself differently?  What is your favorite heritage food? (Who knows, it may end up in one of my spreads!)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Sensitive Topics in Tarot Readings

During my Closer Look post on Monday, I ended up discussing how we approach sensitive issues as tarot readers who are not necessarily equipped to deal with diagnoses and treatments.  In this example, addiction was the issue at hand, but there are a host of other things going on in a querent's life that may be difficult to address.  I was very lucky to have some members of my online communities give their feedback.  I'm especially prioritizing the comments of one person who disclosed that they are in recovery from addiction.  After reading Monday's post--and after I solicited feedback--they observed:

 "'s easy for me to imagine somebody on the outside not realizing how huge something like addiction is, especially for people like me who don't seem like a stereotypical addict/alcoholic. I can certainly understand the reluctance to ask that kind of thing if the client hasn't mentioned it, but most addicts know on one level or another what they're doing to themselves. In that sense, acknowledging that addiction can be a major obstacle in any area of life seems like an important part of the interpretation" (emphasis mine).

I think this is a really important point, because ignoring an issue or displaying a lot of discomfort with it can add to stigma.  That's the last thing I want to do during a reading!

Other readers shared that it can be difficult to find the right words for disclosing topics like addiction or mental health, and so querents might be taking their cues from you.  If we seem reluctant to talk about it, querents are not likely to feel comfortable disclosing.  So how do we, as card readers, make sure we are upfront with our querents not only about the limitations of our readings, but the fact that we are somebody who is open to talking about sensitive issues?

I think for me, the answer is to incorporate it into my spiel. Before any reading I do, I tell the querent my approach to tarot.  Here is what I plan on including:

Tarot readings can bring up unexpected, sensitive issues.  Please know that anything you share with me in this reading will remain confidential (unless it poses an immediate threat to you or others)*, and that it is not my role to judge you or make assumptions about your life.  I also have a list of resources available that I can provide after the reading. My goal is for you to leave this session feeling more empowered.

*Different states have different laws regarding mandatory reporting for things like child/elder abuse; I recommend checking your local laws (apologies for the U.S.-centrism!)

Ultimately, the querent decides whether or not we are a safe person to disclose to. We simultaneously do not want to stigmatize through avoidance, nor do we want to assume that the querent owes us information.  It's not easy, and we may not get it right all the time, but it is important to work on it.

I'll leave you with what I see as a really great example. At Autostraddle, Beth Maiden of Little Red Tarot provided an online reading for a querent experiencing anxiety.  Beth included this lovely explanation before launching into her reading of the cards:

"First, a note about anxiety. For some, ‘anxiety’ may be a temporary feeling of worry or fear, and perhaps a period of sleepless nights. For others, this is a serious mental/emotional health condition which shouldn’t be taken lightly. A tarot reading aims to shed new light on your situation, to encourage you and help you to find approaches that can help, but I can’t diagnose you, and a tarot reading cannot ‘cure’ anxiety. If you’re worried about your mental and/or emotional health, please consider talking to a professional counsellor or doctor."

She touches on the important stuff in a gentle tone that doesn't sugar-coat nor stigmatize.  She doesn't make it the focus of the reading, but she gives it the weight it deserves.

Are these approaches realistic, in your opinion?  What are other ways we can be accessible and responsible in our readings?